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SLVFD Mourns the loss of Past Chief and 45 year member John Wamsganz
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By SLVFD News Room
June 10, 2022

John Wamsganz, age 78, of Saranac Lake, died Thursday, June 9, 2022 at his home surrounded by family, following a brief illness.

Born in Saranac Lake, New York on February 28, 1944, he was the son of Vernon and Gertrude (Belair) Wamsganz. John married Claudia Heath on October 28, 1967.

John was a lifelong resident of Saranac Lake. He attended Saranac Lake Central School, as well as North Country Community College, Canton ATC and Potsdam State University for Education certificates. John was employed by the State of New York at Adirondack Correctional Facility where he held many titles, his last as a repair technician. As a young man, John served his community as a hockey coach, Commissioner of Bantams, and volunteered to help build the Saranac Lake Civic Center. John is a past member of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, volunteering there for over 45 years. He also served as a training instructor for the fire department in local schools during “National Fire Prevention Week”. John held many officer positions over the years in the fire department and served as SLVFD’s Fire Chief from 1981 to 1983. John’s father Vern also previously served as the Chief of SLVFD in 1956. John and his father Vern are the only father and son to ever serve as the Chief of the department, a fact John was very proud of. John was recently recognized by the fire department at their 2022 annual banquet for his many years of service presenting him with the prestigious “Chief’s” award. John was also a member of the Saranac Lake Moose Lodge, Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, the American Legion and the Saranac Lake Masonic Lodge, having earned his 32nd degree. John served as a trustee at the First United Methodist Church and helped with preparation for the Election Day Turkey Supper. He also helped to decorate the First United Methodist Church for the Christmas Season. John spread joy and cheer to anyone who needed help; giving bagpipe lessons, opening his home to help both two and four legged friends. He also enjoyed his time at camp, hunting with the boys and his grandsons. John was honored to serve as the 2017 King of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. He will be fondly remembered for his big smile, infectious laugh, wonderful holiday decorations on Stevenson Lane and hosting great parties. He was proudly known as “Papa”, to his 5 beautiful grandchildren.

John is survived by his wife of over 55 years, Claudia, one daughter Elaine Goff of Bloomingdale and one son, Jason (Nicol) Wamsganz of Saranac Lake, five grandchildren, Brennan, Annaliese, Patrick, Lydia, and Anika, three brothers Vernon (Diane), Paul (Cindy Taylor) and Matthew (Karin) Wamsganz, one sister Jean Foley, three step siblings Steve, Margaret and Marybeth, and several nieces and nephews. John was predeceased by one brother Willard (Bill) and a brother in law Bernie Foley.

Calling hours will take place at the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home from 4 to 7 PM on Sunday, June 12th. A funeral service will take place at 11:00 AM on Monday, June 13th at the Saranac Lake First United Methodist Church in Saranac Lake with the Rev. Robert Lowenthal officiating. Following cremation burial will take place at Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake at the convenience of the family.

John and family would like to thank all of his caregivers including Hospice for their wonderful care and lively personalities, which John appreciated.

Friends wishing to remember John Wamsganz may make memorial contributions to their favorite charity in care of the funeral home. Family and friends can also share their memories and condolences at

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Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department
100 Broadway
PO Box 509
Saranac Lake NY 12983

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